Monday, November 30

Coming home!

Forgive me for the terrible lack of posts. I have no excuse except that Lord of the Rings online is just that good! (yes, I have been lured back to the world of online gaming)

Anyhow, back to the important stuff. I have attempted to get this little fragment of news out to most people but I'm now at that point where I have no clue who knows and who doesn't so if you're finding out for the first time via the blog, my apologies... We are coming home!

Before I jump too far ahead let me backtrack for a second. For those of you new to the blog, Jo and I are both Australians, Tasmanians to be precise. Yes, we are from the little island state at the bottom of Australia that gets left off most maps. Tasmania is more beautiful than any one place really has a right to be! See for yourself...

About 5 minutes from the middle of Hobart, the capital city.

Yep it gets cold, but doesn't tend to snow in town. This is Mt Wellington, again only a stone's throw from the city center. The grocer on the corner (the Salad Bowl) is also one of my favourite corner stores and a great spot for finding local cheese bargains!

Oops how did this get in here? Local Tasmanian sheep/goat cheese, sausage, wine and pinot paste from Grandvewe.

Ahh, the view from my outlaws' beach house in Boat Harbour, one of my favourite places of all time.

Boat Harbour again...sigh

We ended up in Texas because when I finished my PhD (statistical genetics) I was offered the kind of job you just can't refuse, even if it does mean moving to San Antonio! So I moved here in March 2006 and had to wait nine horribly long months before Jo could join me here (she also had a PhD to finish but hers in is something much more conversation friendly - literature! See, you can even say it without swallowing your tongue). We always planned to return to Australia but it was dependent on me getting a job (not a whole lot of places for me to work in Oz) and the 'where?' was very much up in the air. We thought maybe Melbourne or Adelaide and were resigned to the idea of being a short flight from home, but by some fortuitous twist of fate I have been offered a job in Tasmania! It starts in April so we'll be leaving here around the end of March, which will be exactly 4 years for me!

The whole thing is bitter sweet because of course we are busting to go home and we want Marty to be closer to family and dear old friends, but it means leaving behind all our fabulous friends here, my incredible job and all the fun that comes with living in another country. I plan on keeping the blog but of course it is going to need a new title so I might open up a suggestion box. Jac Wabbit went to Texas and came home again is a little cumbersome but I could always go with 'there and back again' ;)

Wednesday, November 11

Días de los Muertos - Days of the dead

Over the last week or two we've been celebrating the days of the dead in their various forms. San Antonio is brilliant; not only do we get the usual American Halloween fun including work celebrations, dressing up, lots of sugar and trick or treating but we also get the Mexican / Catholic celebrations of El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) which is both a memorial and celebration of those who have passed on.

First off there was the work Halloween party which included a hallway decorating contest, costume contest (I was a judge, ha!), mummy wrapping game and dessert contest! The photo below is our friend Katy's 3rd place dessert entry (I think it should have won).

Katy's jelly brain dessert with berry sauce

Then there was the actual night of Halloween. I made a big pot of my Tassie Devil chilli (and a vegetarian version - neither of which actually include devils) and we headed on down to John and Jo's since their house is in a better neighbourhood for the festivities (you don't really get trick or treaters at apartments unless organised by the complex). There were a bunch of us going, some to trick or treat and some to man the door and hand out candy, but the deal was we all had to dress up. We thought we were all organised with Marty's costume since we had this fabulous chilli-pepper outfit we bought before he even existed... but at the last minute we discovered a wardrobe malfunction! Every time he moved his legs it popped open! It was too small!! (Actually, I think it was designed by someone who had never seen a real baby...maybe one of those people who design costumes for dogs) We did manage to get a few pics before retiring the chilli.


He was remarkably chipper all through the dressing up process!

Hot stuff (aww come on, someone had to say it!)


Luckily his mama did some fancy footwork and secured him a replacement outfit at the 11th hour... even if I did have to drive to the back of whoop whoop to pick it up!

It's a rainbow glow bug, I think. We'll it's cute whatever it is! (Poggie not in costume at this point)

Rainbow bug and his Papa Bear - make sure you check the Bears for more pics and news

Halloween loot for just one child o_0

Our church also does a lovely and very moving day of the dead celebration where members bring photos and stories of people they want to remember.

Altar of remembrance

Finally, to wrap up all this celebrating death/life we popped down to First Friday, which is a arts/beer festival in Southtown, the San Antonio arts district. This particular first Friday included a day of the dead parade as well as a Muertitos Fest!

We started First Friday with drinks, fried mushrooms and jalapeno poppers at our favourite Texan icehouse, La Tuna. We met up with friends and their little girl Camille and then headed down to Muertitos Fest at Say Si, arguably our favorite gallery in San Antonio. Say Si is a student art program but the quality of the work is excellent, as you will see in a moment.

Some of the incredible altars at Say Si

More altars. Call it my Catholic roots but I love these!

Some of the artwork. Hard to tell from the pic but these were gorgeous.

This was our favourite piece by far and we would definitely have bought it if it hadn't already sold! It is a combo of found paper, block printing, woodwork and resin.

After we'd checkout out the artwork we popped outside to catch some of the traditional dancing, including this incredible routine where they danced with real candles on their heads!

After that we did catch the parade, but my photos suck so if you want to see better ones check out the Bears.

Day of the dead parade at Say Si

And of course we dressed Rooey for the occasion so that everybody stopped to goo over him!

Wednesday, November 4

Foster Botanical Gardens - Honolulu (or an excuse to post pictures)

We visited the Foster Botanical Gardens while in Honolulu - totally worth the short cab from the hotel. I have no idea what most of these plants are (other than pretty) and frankly I'm too lazy to work it out. This post is just an excuse to post lots of photos.

(Remember that, as always, you can click on any of the pics to see the big version)

A tiny bit smaller than coconuts but waaay more plentiful, I was pretty nervous of standing anywhere near this tree!

See, not just one or two cannonballs but enough to scone you several times over!

And wicked thorns to boot (this is still the cannonball tree) but I did risk getting close because the flowers were so pretty... Ahh, tricksy!

See!! Look at that flower. It looks as thought it could just eat you up... wait... aaaghh!

Jo and Roo at the gardens

Some kind of large, toothy palm

Jac messing with the camera

Still messing with the camera...

Nuts! Big as grapefruit!

Jo by one of the trees she's had photos taken with at 3 and 14 years old

Giant squid monster tree?

Looks like fireworks to me

This one reminded me of a cylon resurrection ship... clearly due for that holiday!

We'll eat you up we love you so!

This tree rebelled by flowering from its trunk

A lunch fit for for a lizard

A huge and glorious painted gum

Munch crunch lunched

Josie, Roo and the Bears - proof that we all survived unsconed

Tuesday, November 3

Where to eat in Waikiki if you're trapped at the Hilton Hawaiian Village

Apologies that it has taken me longer than I hoped to get this post out. I came down with the dreaded lurgie, no doubts contracted from Mr-lack-of-personal-hygiene who was sitting across the aisle from me on the plane, coughing willy-nilly into the communal airspace and flossing his teeth in his seat. Blergh. Anyhow, I've been feeling rotten but doing my best not to pass it onto small boy (so far so good).

Back to the important stuff. When we first arrived in Hawaii and settled into the cruise ship like mega-plex that was the Hilton Hawaiian Village we suddenly realised that we needed to find 3 squares a day for the next week and the room service menu was not only dismally small but looked like the budget sheet of a small country... Not a good start. The Hilton has 20 something restaurants within its bounds, some of which are half decent and I'll cover them, but we also wanted to get outside the plastic-fantastic security blanket and eat what the locals eat. Our restrictions were price, exhaustion (within a short walking distance), small-boy friendliness (although he is such a champion restaurant baby now) and also the food had to be good! Here's how we survived.

#1 Chiba-Ken Japanese restaurant. This place was my favourite hands down! Not even a whole block from the hotel (but down an unassuming side street) we thankfully stumbled over this little gem. One look at the menu showed me no cream cheese in any of the sushi and I was sold. I ate here three times but I could happily have come back every night. The chirashi special was really good, so was the tsukemono and the slow cooked, sticky pork belly (melt in your mouth goodness). I am not usually a miso fan but the miso was the best (and freshest) that I've had in a long time! Definitely worth a visit (or 3) if you're in the area.

Edamame, tsukemono and unfiltered sake at Chiba-Ken

Gorgeously fresh chirashi special (with uni and fresh wasabi) plus tasty-tasty miso at Chiba-Ken

#2 The Wailana Coffee House. This diner is right across the street from the hotel, open 24 hours and had the (I wish I could say faint) odor of urine, but the breakfasts were fast, filling, cheap and pretty darn tasty - plus the menu was big enough that you could breakfast for a week and not get bored. Great omelettes (I can recommend the Chinese style), good pancakes and Jo liked the muesli (cup not bowl people).

#3 The ubiquitous ABC stores. While not exactly a restaurant, these places were a lifesaver in terms of foraging. From yoghurt and juice for the early morning jetlag munchies through to a bottle of wine and some plastic glasses (plus a Hawaii themed bottle opener) at way less than room service prices. They also have all your trashy (and not so trashy) souvenir requirements covered.

#4 Pho Minh Thu>. This little Vietnamese place was hidden away about a block from the hotel and like most pho houses it looked pretty Spartan, but the food was delicious and so fresh and cheap too. Good pho, vermicelli bowls and great summer rolls. We ate in and grabbed take out several times, since this was the perfect food for hungry travellers craving something fresh.

#5 Two honourable mentions from within the Hilton complex. Round Table Pizza which is a US West Coast pizza chain (and it doesn't get more West Coast than Hawaii, sorry California...) The Guinevere's Garden (vege) and King Arthur's Supreme were both very good and even better with a bottle of red from the ABC store! Also within the Hilton complex was Hatsuhana, a sushi place that opened early for breakfast. I was on my own here but I loved the toridori udon (chicken udon soup) - it was exactly what I felt like for brek!